Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"The origin of art is in the shock of the food chain"

That's Robert Hass, former US poet laureate. He said this at an NYU event where he and evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson had a conversation about how nature and wonder influenced their career pursuits. I'd love to hear what you think about that comment, Serena, (and anyone else, please), and about his riff on the evolution of altruism leading to both communal living and warfare. Do the two go hand-in-hand? Can you have community without necessarily enforced otherness? Etc. Link is here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Getting More Awesome All the Time

Okay, so this may be cheating, but I was going through some papers while unpacking my stuff (a never ending process which seems to never reach its goal of making my room look less like a disaster area), I found some papers I wrote for Mr. John Miller of the National Review in the writing class I took from him my last semester. I wrote this little bit for my final. I think the prompt was "What are your post-grad plans" or something. I, conceitedly,think my past self was witty and amusing. So here are the words of my (slightly) younger self, written hubristically to conceal the terror of the last week of my life--I mean school:

There’s an internet meme that says, “All of my friends are getting married. I’m just getting more awesome.” Since, last time I checked, approximately 42.86% of my friends are skipping blithely down the nuptial pathway--skyping or canoodling with significant others on Tuesday nights while I study or drink (alone)--I’ve adopted this motto for my post-grad plans. Those of my classmates who aren’t getting married will probably be attending grad school in the fall for some degree in, like, levinasian hermeneutics or domestic life in Orvieto in the 16th century. Me? I’m going to trot off to the woods with my English degree in one hand and Thoreau in the other to live intentionally.

I’ll be spending the next five months not on the banks of Walden pond but in the Shenandoah Valley, just south of Roanoke, Virginia at Seven Springs Farm, close to where Annie Dillard wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I’m looking forward to living in a little shack without potable running water, cooking outdoors, watching the sun rise over the fields, and never writing another term paper or taking another final exam again. My mother, raised on a farm herself, doubts whether my high-heel-and-skirt-wearing self will last very long, but I’m sure that my complete failure to create a backup plan will ensure I live the gentleman-farmer dream for the full stint, hunkered down over wood coals and smothered with bug spray and sunscreen. Did I mention there won’t be air conditioning?

Thanks to Hillsdale, my extensive knowledge of Medieval poetry and Plato has made me an invaluable asset to cocktail parties to come. I also know most of the lyrics to any one of two dozen Irish drinking songs and how to order a beer without looking like a fool, so basically I'm set. This Saturday, I will emerge like a butterfly out of a chrysalis a stronger, more elevated and refined version of the slobbering and fearful child of eighteen who stepped foot on campus four years ago. My parents will hardly recognize this exemplary specimen of womanhood. 

But I’m tired. I need sunshine. While my brain has become a thing of beauty, my adrenal gland is shot, I have permanent bags under my eyes, and my skin has taken on that greenish-glow which signifies early-onset LCD-induced cancer. So while everyone else hunkers down to enjoy nuptial bliss, you’ll find me at Seven Springs Farm, sweating away and covered with axle grease and dirt. I’ll be getting more awesome.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Filling Station

Filling Station 
by Elizabeth Bishop

Oh, but it is dirty!
--this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!

Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms,
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him
(it's a family filling station)
all quite thoroughly dirty.

Do they live in the station?
It has a cement porch
behind the pups, and on it
a set of crushed and grease-
impregnated wickerwork;
on the wicker sofa
a dirty dog, quite comfy.

Some comic books provide
the only note of color--
of certain color. They lie
upon a big dim doily
draping a taboret
(part of a set), beside
a big hirsute begonia.

Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret?
Why, oh why, the doily?
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think,
and heavy with gray crochet.)

Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant,
or oils it, maybe. Somebody
arranges the rows of cans
so that they softly say:
to high strung automobiles.
Somebody loves us all.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mystery and Mastery

 “What is mastery?” The doctor asked me. I hadn’t exactly prepared for the philosophical turn the interview had taken.

I had been running late all day: for one thing, this was Monday—‘nuff said. For another, we had just moved that weekend (a fiasco of tragicomic proportions which included, but as not limited to, the power company accidentally shutting off the juice for 24 hours). What with a new and unfamiliar city-location, I was getting lost and therefore late every time I left the house. Leaving extremely early for everything didn’t seem to mitigate the problem, to my frustration. And then, what between moving, job-training, and crisis-management (bananas for the baby and eggnog for us), I had somehow forgot to print out a copy of my resume. Little-known fact: I’m prone to panic attacks. Needless to say, I was pretty ragged and haggard—in short, not office manager material by the time I made it to Dr. Bekker’s office for the interview. At that point, I wouldn’t have hired me to be a short-order fry cook, much less an office manager at a homeopathic practice.

“Education,” Dr. Baker leaned back in his chair as I tried to settle down, “is about mastery,” and instead of the bullet-point job-description low-down I expected, he gave me a quick lesson in pedagogy. The problem with modern schooling, he remarked, is that it aims at accumulation, not mastery. Of course, he smiled, mastery depends on the scope of the subject: “I’ve studied homeopathy 25 years, and I haven’t begun to master it.”
But what is mastery?

I’d like to think that college humbled me on this subject of education. I graduated from high school much more confident about what I knew than when I walked across the stage six months ago and shook Dr. Whalen’s hand. As an 18-year-old, I had wanted to be a liberal arts major, to study everything. Of course, you can’t do that at Hillsdale, weirdly enough, so I settled on English: it’s cohesive, unifying, blah, blah, blah.

I’m glad I did.

I found that nothing reveals your ignorance like burrowing deeply into a subject. It’s like an intellectual Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and it’s depressing. The world shies away from discursion.

I’ve studied all four poems of the Medieval Pearl-Poet (you may know “Gawain and the Green Knight”). They’re some of the most stunning works in English, perhaps in any language, and I know them probably better than any other comparable body of work. I know them well enough to know I don’t know them. I, of course, only spent 3 months with them, which is an absurd space of time in which to expect mastery, but stil.

If the danger of specialization is myopia, as the liberal-artsy types argue, the generalist’s boogie might very well be hubris: thinking that political theory can be summed up by the Magna Carta and U.S. Constitution or that knowing one’s case endings constitutes knowledge of Latin. The specialist, if he’s honest, knows how unknowable the world is, how it recedes at every point. Knowledge kisses reality through a bridal veil.

So you’re going to college? About to start an apprenticeship or technical school? Welcome, to use another metaphor, to the greatest hide-and-go-seek game of all times. Tag. You’re it.

Like riding an exponential function, you ain’t never gonna touch x, baby.

Don’t mistake me for a mystic or a pessimist—though I do err in both directions. An exponential function gets close enough to the axis to nearly skin its nose. Being a specialist is not like Moses ascending to see the Promised Land, with a noble mournfulness, as from afar. Sometimes I feel that way, but that’s mostly laziness. Nonetheless, mastery does, I think, reveal mystery.

Consider, by way of analogy, friendship. Perhaps it’s just me, but I find it much easier to describe people I don’t know well. I would shudder to describe quipily my best friends.  Sometimes my dad (the “anonymous” who often comments here) ask me why I’m friends with so-and-so; I don’t know what to say. Who could contain the scope of a soul in 140 characters? Those I thought I knew best surprise me most. The friendships I discovered particularly during college taught me that trust and predictability are not mutually contingent. They may even be mutually incompatible. I don’t know. I could write you a zinger of a personality analysis for the diner waitress this morning--mustard-stains and blowsy hair included--but for, say, my dear blog co-writer Betsy? No, I really couldn’t even start. But I do know, all the same.

Perhaps that mystery is what dear old St. John was getting at in his Revelation, about God giving a secret name to each.
I was listening to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (yeah, I confess; I make up excuses to drive around just to listen to NPR) the other day, and they had astrophysicist Adam Reiss who won a Nobel Prize this year. He said that he got into astrophysics because of how much we didn’t know—and then, by gum, he discovered we knew even less than we thought—dark energy, etc. I don’t think the old pagans would have been surprised, personally. But we do have names for everything, he said. So we’re still Adam, slapping names onto things we’ve only just seen--but, perhaps, half the knowing is in that name?

We domesticate the world through words. That’s our job, from the beginning. A master names. And yet we know that our names only approximate, circle around, that true name, true knowledge, of a thing. It’s all stuttering—but stuttering is speech, too, and our words are true. Just as we approach, asymptotically,* that divinely given name, the more find ourselves speechless, I think—like Thomas Aquinas or Gregory the Great who Dante has laughing at himself re his speculation about the angels.

What’s mastery? It’s sweating to find the right word; it’s near-god-like gaze of seeing the whole and all its parts; it’s eating the crop you raise from and raze back to soil, in reverence. If your hackles are still prickling that I dared put down that intellectually-obese character, the well-rounded generalist—padded with Plato, rolling in Shakespeare, with a spot of Cezanne on his chin—forgive me. Mastery means the happy marriage of generalist and specialist.

*Note for math nerds: I know that in contemporary mathematics, an asymptote can actually intersect the line. Don’t get mad at me. I learned, like, Euclidean geometry ‘n’ stuff, so I’m still living in a mathematic world a couple millennia out of date. Forgive me.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hell and Love

Hell and Love 
by Garret Keizer

Hell is always grander to pain
Than the bliss of a resurrected saint;
More fun to show the lecher's doom,
Tits and ass in the flickering gloom.

Yet love inspires more than hate,
A head caressed than on a plate,
And even should his colors wash,
I'd put Chagall in front of Bosch.

The Passion is a painter's dream,
With hell and love a single theme--
The human body stripped to show
A death both merciful and slow.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Still life with fake avocados and clean laundry

Well, gang, I’m here. I’ve been here for a month, here in the Big D--Dallas, home of big cars, big hats, big hair. Through an odd turn of events (i.e. the friends I’m living with were evicted from their apartment a week before I arrived because--and I tell you the honest to gorsh truth--someone decided to tear the building down), I’m camping out in two top-story bedrooms in a huge house (complete with chandelier) in Plano. If you’re wondering why I’m sprawled out in two rooms, you’ve never seen the way I spread out. My things are everywhere. Someday I will become an adult and be able to, you know, keep house. Until then....

But that’s neither here nor there--the real here and now consists in me squatting hobo-style with friends in a show house. It’s basically been like Arrested Development. Picture this: the four of us (three adults plus 1.5 year-old) eating goulash and arugula at this Ikea table which is slightly too tall for comfort in a beige dining room. We’re eating off beige placemats and using the napkins which came off the table, show napkins which are neither soft nor absorbent, which sort of spread the gravy around your sneering mug rather than wipe it off.  There’s a plate of fake avocados in the middle of the table and we pass the casserole dish around them, trying to confiscate the avocados from Sophia who makes a periodic grab at them and chucks them at our heads. Meanwhile, a nice-looking Asian family have let themselves in the front door and are tip-toeing around checking the place out.We wave blandly, like people on an elevator. They ask where the water heater is and seem confused when we tell them that we have no idea. Is there a problem with the backyard flooding? We’ve never seen it happen, we answer with perfect candor.

Oh, well.

But we’re leaving Plano. We’ve found a nice little apartment a mile from our church which is about two miles North of downtown Dallas. It has lovely wood floors and a fireplace which appears to have been designed by someone who had never actually seen a wood fire. It’s a nice touch. Our neighbors below have obscured their front door with massive spider plants, so obviously they are cool people. It’s a five minute walk to one of the coolest little bistro groceries in Dallas, Eatzi’s, and the famous Turtle Creek Park is another little hop.

Employment’s been slow coming, but in the last week it appears that between being my Wonder Woman (i.e. mommy’s helper) jobs for a few mothers I know, a cleaning job, and part-time stints at two separate tutoring centers, I’ll actually be able to pay my bills. No cardboard box or bankruptcy for this English major.

So basically all’s right and weird in the world, as it ought to be, thank God. I have an amazing church, good friends, work I enjoy, and a sweet pad. What more could one possibly want from life? I don’t know about the rest of you, my fellow graduates, but the post-college months have been incredibly odd. Who knew that not measuring your life in semesters could be so disorienting? For the first time in my life, I could almost literally do anything I want to--and I find that what I really want to do is, well, go to evening prayer and teach kids how to conjugate Latin verbs. The pleasures of my life are that dry-mouh daze you get from pounding through a good novel (East of Eden for me currently), wrestling with Sophia on the floor, and chatting to Nicole about childhood over breakfast. I’ve discovered how satisfying folding three baskets of clean laundry for a friend can be and that I really will read copious amounts of literature without the threat of a reading quiz. To summarize: despite the fact that I somewhat sadistically miss 2am cigarettes outside the old student union at the Dale during the nose-hair freezing Michigan winter, God’s in his heaven and I’ve found a home.

Ten crooked fingers to count with

Not that it matters, but this is definitely one of my to 10 favorite poems ever.

This World, Not the Next 

by Lance Larsen

True, God dreamed our first parents out
of chaos of firmament and longing.
And true, he pled with them to return
to a delicious Forever of his making.
But it was this world, with its tides and machinery
of sweet decay, they learned to love.

He touched their hair, then covered their sleeping
mouths with His and declared breath
holy, but forced them to draw another
and another.  He commanded that they eat
not of that dazzling tree of awe and penumbra,
but knew its fruit would eat at them.

And when it did, and when they fell
into knowing, God folded the garden and hid it
deep inside the woman, but commanded
the man to tend it.  And in due season the man
Eved, and the woman Adamed back
and the song of radiance they keened was pure

darkness by morning.  And God blessed
their bounty to be infinite, but left them
ten crooked fingers to count with.
And buried His echo inside their bodies,
a delicious lapping that answered yes and yes
though neither could remember the question

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ecclesiastes was wrong about that

A Man in His Life
by Yehuda Amichai

A man doesn’t have time in his life
to have time for everything.
He doesn’t have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose.  Ecclesiastes
was wrong about that.  

A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment,
to laugh and cry with the same eyes,
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them,
to make love in war and war in love.

And to hate and forgive and remember and forget,
to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest
what history
takes years and years to do.

A man doesn’t have time.
When he loses he seeks, when he finds
he forgets, when he forgets he loves, when he loves
he begins to forget.

And his soul is seasoned, his soul
is very professional.
Only his body remains forever
an amateur.  It tries and it misses
gets muddled, doesn’t learn a thing,
drunk and blind in its pleasures
and in its pains.

He will die as figs die in autumn,
shriveled and full of himself and sweet,
the leaves growing dry on the ground,
the bare branches already pointing to the place
where there’s time for everything.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Hippy Commune

You all know what you've been waiting for: pictures of the commune. Yes, these are SFW.

In back of the main house. Yes, that's an outdoor shower.

The outhouse is a happening place, man.

The outside of the outhouse, or "privy," as we like to call it.

Milling sorghum.

Pressed sorghum stalks next to the vineyard.

If I were a princess, I would send princes on quests for a butcher block like this for my castle. This is the holy grail of kitchenware.  

Road Trip Down to Dallas or Indiana Never Ends

Well, it's been a month in Dallas, and I'm finally posting some pictures from my road trip down from MI.

The Indian Sand Dunes by Gary, IN
I met a white-haired, snaggletooth man in a down jacket and a baseball cap here. His name is John. He quit his job, sold everything he owns except his Windstar, and is visiting every National Park in the country. I wished him the best of luck.

I don't remember what town this is in, but it was right after Utica, or right before Utica, where this crazed museum curator snatched me off the streets and held me captive for an hour explaining the glories of their little museum. All I remember is a wooden duck and a carriage Lincoln road in. This hefty homeschool mama came in and the two of them started monotone monologuing about Noah's flood and the fossil record under our feet. I edged out. 

The sunbursts accurately represent my mental state after 7 hours of Indiana. It's officially my least favorite state (sorry).

Don Quixote didn't show up, much to my chagrin.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pentatina for Five Vowels

I have about 5,000 words written which I'm sure will someday find themselves edited and published in blog-form, but right now I'm weary and I just want to post a poem which struck me from last month's Poetry.

Pentatina for Five Vowels

Today is a trumpet to set the hounds baying.
The past is a fox the hunters are flaying.
Nothing unspoken goes without saying.
Love’s a casino where lovers risk playing.
The future’s a marker our hearts are prepaying.

The future’s a promise there’s no guaranteeing.
Today is a fire the field mice are fleeing.
Love is a marriage of feeling and being.
The past is a mirror for wishful sightseeing.
Nothing goes missing without absenteeing.

Nothing gets cloven except by dividing.
The future is chosen by atoms colliding.
The past’s an elision forever eliding.
Today is a fog bank in which I am hiding.
Love is a burn forever debriding.

Love’s an ascent forever plateauing.
Nothing is granted except by bestowing.
Today is an anthem the cuckoos are crowing.
The future’s a convolute river onflowing.
The past is a lawn the neighbor is mowing.

The past is an answer not worth pursuing,
Nothing gets done except by the doing.
The future’s a climax forever ensuing.
Love is only won by wooing.
Today is a truce between reaping and rueing.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

In case you're wondering...

...this is why a liberal arts education matters. From October's Poetry, reprinted from its first publishing in that same magazine in 1958.

Private and Profane 
by Marie Ponsot
From loss of the old and lack of new
From failure to make the right thing do
Save us, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
     From words not the word, from a feckless voice
     From poetic distress and from careless choice
     Exclude our intellects, James Joyce.
From genteel angels and apostles unappalled
From hollywood visions as virgins shawled
Guard our seeing, Grunewald.
     From calling a kettle an existential pot,
     From bodying the ghost of whatever is not,
     John save us, o most subtle Scot.
From pace without cadence, from pleasures slip-shod
From eating the pease and rejecting the pod
Wolfgang keep us, lover of God.
     Couperin come with your duple measure
     Altar our minds against banal pleasure.
Durer direct with strictness of vision
Steady this flesh toward your made precision.
     Mistress of accurate minor pain,
     Lend wit for forbearance, prideless Jane.
From pretending to own what we secretly seek,
From (untimely, discourteous) the turned other cheek,
Protect our honor, Demetrius the Greek.
     From ignorance of structural line and bone
     From passion not pointed on truth alone
     Attract us, painters on Egyptian stone.
     From despair keep us, Aquin's dumb son;
     From despair keep us, Saint Welcome One;
     From lack of despair keep us, Djuna and John Donne.
The zeal for free will get us in deep,
That the chance to choose be the one we keep
That free will steel self in us against self-defense
That free will repeal in us our last pretense
That free will heal us
     Jeanne d'Arc, Job, Johnnie Skelton,
     Jehan de Beauce, composer Johann,
     Dark John Milton, Charter Oak John
Strike deep, divide us from cheap-got doubt,
Leap, leap between us and the easy out;
teach us to seize, to use, to sleep well, to let go;
Let our loves, freed in us, gaudy and graceful, grow.

Does anyone know anything about Marie Ponsot?? Her other poem in this month's Poetry, "A Visit," is also swell. It reminds me of my grandmother a lot (sans the gin). I just really dig the vim with which she wrote.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Downer of the Day

Ok, I'm really sorry, and I know this is might sound negative and uncharitable, but this month's Poetry has some real stinkers -- like, hoo boy, some of this stuff is bad. One example:

My Weather

Wakeful, sleepy, hungry, anxious,
restless, stunned, relieved.

Does a tree also?
A mountain?

A cup holds
sugar, flour, three large rabbit-breaths of air.

I hold these.

Oh for goodness sake. What is this?? I don't even want to talk about it.

That's not to say it's all bad -- Deborah Paredez and Mary Karr's stuff is really interesting (and Karr's poems are about David Foster Wallace, which Serena intuited w.o even knowing they used to date, because Serena, as I've said before, is really really smart). But for goodness sake.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Whole Passel O' Gloves

Various gloves, most of which were in Harlem:

This is a block or two from the Upper West Side whole foods. A true glove bonanza.

But sometimes NY is really beautiful (skyline via Queens).

Ugh, Solange Knowles, Ugh

Why are you perfect? Ugh, ugh.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A few Floyd Co. highlights

Many of the ol' homesteads are now used as hay barns
A thrift store 4 turns and 20 minutes from anywhere.

I'm not sure whether to be frightened or reassured.

Greens Garage: an organic/local food store on a gravel road which runs completely on the honor system.

Vitro Yoyo out on Shawsville Pike, also home of Boogles' Pro Wrestling Camp.


Last Days of Farm Life



Sunday, September 30, 2012

Letters from Home: Learning Contentment

I have a fat envelope of letters and postcards from many of you this summer. I looked forward to getting those letters this summer like a 5-year-old on Christmas Eve. Thank you so much. Your wit and love helped me through the low points and the lonely times. If I may without boring all y'all, I'd like to share an excerpt from a letter my dad sent me right before I left the farm on contentment which I found particularly timely on one afternoon when I just wanted to leave:

"Not even much of a gay time with customers at the cash register [Dad works at the local grocery store]. But most days are so. And there is perhaps more to learn and to grow in by these kind of days. How to be satisfied takes a lot of learning in many different places. Perhaps that's why I think a clear eye is so important; beauty has it's place in every satisfaction. A hurried mind and impatience makes us blind."

Thanks for that reminder, Dad.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Going hoarse and finding my voice

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error,
The only hope, or else despair
   Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre--
   To be redeemed from fire by fire.

   Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
   We only live, only suspire
   Consumed by either fire or fire.

--T.S. Eliot (from "Little Gidding")*

My dad sent me an email two days ago prompting me to write. Why haven't you written recently on the blog? he asked. Some of my friends in college would write poems every day, it seemed, for every little thing. I don't do that. It takes me a long time to gestate thoughts into language. These days, I'm getting ready to leave Floyd, which has been my home for the last four months and a kind of new birth for me into the world after my own intellectual gestation of the past 16 years of schooling. I'm getting ready to leave and my brain is too crowded to easily sort idea from idea and peck them out into sentences and paragraphs. It's hard for me to write when I'm unsettled. (Consumer warning: Yeah, this post is going to be total naval-gazing. I'm sorry. It's the end of the summer. I promise to post pretty pictures next time.)

Last week, I talked to Betsy for a while about how hard it is living alone. Days pass and I say few words to anyone. I get out of practice having conversations; the sound of my own voice becomes strange. I get used to the little non-causal explosions of thought that erupt in my brain without organizing them into linear thoughts. In the absence of speaking, I feel like I've lost my voice. Writers talk a lot about having a "voice," of course, but that conversation with Betsy was the first time I thought of that abstract writerly "voice" in terms of the experience of speech--the string of words which ties our lives together, individually and corporately. Being by myself this summer and keeping my voice inside my head so much, I feel like my personhood has somehow been sort of diminished. I often find I don't know my own mind before I have a conversation, and in the absence of other minds this summer, I've been at risk of loosing mine.

I have had many wonderful conversations in the fields with my coworkers, I don't want to sound like I've been a complete Cistercian, but there's been a lot of silence--good silence, time to wait for myself to grow up, time to finally take note of the changes within myself particularly during the past four collegiate years which have not allowed much time for contemplation. I've needed that. But I also need community. If you know me at all, you know I'm pretty obnoxiously, neurotically independent and having to be independent this summer has made me realize how much I love other people, how much my personality doesn't exist unless it's in conversation with another.

It's been constantly amazing during this past summer how at peace I feel when I'm with others. After I bought my car, there were a few evenings I drove all the way to Blacksburg (45 minutes) just to sit in the library or Starbucks until they both closed. I'm sure the other patrons would have been completely weirded out if they had known how greedily I listened to their gossip and arguments over physics homework. Back at the farm, solitude in the evenings oscillates between unbearable loneliness and complete contentment. I didn't knew before that it's possible to experience both emotions almost simultaneously. Is that what adulthood is like? Shoot. I didn't sign up for this.

But the summer's over, folks. The calendar has announced and passed the first day of fall and the colors as I drove down Allegany Springs Road for the last time on my way to 81 on up to Marieke and Betsy in the D.C. area. (Fast fact: Northern and southern Virginia are really totally different. Also, I can't drive in traffic or parallel park without almost causing accidents. Don't tell my mom. She'll worry about me.) This week, I helped dig 1,500 lb of sweet potatoes in 4 hours with Nii Anang, I learned how to feel trees, I cut and split 3 cords of wood, and I found two baby possums in my trash wrapped up in greasy plastic (they are totally gross, not cute). We wound up the irrigation hoses and planted winter cover crop and the last of the lettuce. I'm done with Seven Springs Farm and the season is over. It's been so lovely--the people, the land, the work. I can't imagine a better place to have accidentally ended up as a confused college grad. So thanks, Floyd County, VA and all my new friends. It was an honor to have known you.

It's hard to leave and I'm going to miss forgetting when I brushed my teeth last or showered, I'll miss the fresh food which has totally ruined eating out for me. I'll miss talking about farming as a spiritual discipline out in the fields with Polly and learning African folk songs. Having to wear shoes every day is going to suck. But I'm so glad to be with friends again. I'm so glad I'm moving to a place where I'm going to have a wonderful spiritual community. (Warning to all my friends in Dallas: I'm planning on being obnoxiously social. Sorry.) It's nice to use this hoarse voice again.

*(Yeah, so if you're looking for a connection between the "Little Gidding" quote and this post... there's not really one. I just really love that poem. And you thought I'm some kind of deep and obscure English major? Ha.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gloves of Manhattan

Here are some pictures of gloves I've seen laying around in the street. My original intent was to make this a Gloves of Harlem feature, but I keep seeing them in Midtown and the Village, so I thought I'd broaden my scope. Also I keep forgetting to note specific addresses, so this isn't very helpful to people missing gloves. But I do what I can.

That one doesn't really look like a glove, but I promise it is. It's one of those plastic foodservice ones. 

This nice pink glove is my favorite of the bunch. I hope its owner can track it down. 

This one was a few blocks from Madison Square Garden, I think. 

The Top of the Blue Ridge

Last Thursday, I took the afternoon off because I had helped Ron build a retaining wall the Saturday before. By "helped build a retaining wall" read "I lugged 80lb blocks of concrete and it was really hot." I sort of got a pretty good idea of what the people who built the pyramids felt like. The plan had been to spend my Thursday in Roanoke, which I haven't explored yet, but I realized that I haven't seen much of Floyd and I figured I should know where I actually live before I go galavanting around. I ended the day with a gorgeous solo hike up to the peak of Buffalo Mountain, and I just want to share some of the pictures with you.

This is possibly the best junk shop ever. No hyperbole. 

Freeze-dried coffee. It's a big deal, folks. 
When I was asking around in Floyd about how to get to the trailhead, they said, "Oh, it's by Daddy Rabbits!" "Um, excuse me?" "You know, Daddy Rabbits." "Someone raises rabbits.... or this is a nickname for some old codger?" "No, no, no, it's a campground." "Gotcha."

I reached the top just before sunset.

Yeah, I live somewhere down there.